Through the ages cultures have created animal and pet memorials. Some are famous, others not so much. All of them, though, symbolise a love and connection that lasts long after an animal companion passes.
In ancient Egypt, it wasn’t just the people themselves who got the mummy treatment. Animals and pets were held in high esteem. Some were treated as the manifestation of the gods and others were faithful companions. Cats, dogs, ibises, and monkeys are found in tombs around the country. Pets are often seen in their master’s tombs, painted on the walls in representations of daily life. They were mummified to keep their owners company in the afterlife. Animal mummies were used in temple rituals as offerings to please the gods in place of expensive bronze statues.
In Japan, the most well-known pet memorial is to Hachiko, an Akita Inu. The story of his life is famous around Japan and a Hollywood adaptation was released starring Richard Gere. Hachiko was born in 1923 and lived with Professor Ueno, who taught at Tokyo University. The pair walked to and from Shibuya Station every morning and evening, until the professor suffered a cerebral bleed at work and died in 1925. Hachiko, unaware of his master’s passing, waited at the station everyday for over nine years until his own death in 1935.
There are various memorials to Hachiko, but the most famous is a statue in his likeness at the entrance of Shibuya Station. In 2015, the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Tokyo unveiled a statue of a tear-jerking reunion between master and companion on their campus.
Australia also has its share of animal memorials, at the Australian War Memorial there’s two that can warm visitor’s hearts and move them to tears. The first is Simpson and his donkey, 1915, a sculpture that stands outside the memorial entrance. John Simpson Fitzpatrick was a soldier who served in Gallipoli as a stretcher bearer and had the dangerous job of taking the wounded from the field to the medics. Simpson used a succession of donkeys to lessen the load and better transport the wounded.
The most recent sculptural addition to the memorial is Elevation of the senses, installed in early 2017. This serves as a tribute to the explosive detection dogs who serve the armed forces. The dog and handler share a deep bond, displayed in the sculpture by the way they look each other in the eye. These dogs risk their lives out in the field detecting IEDs daily. After their service, soldiers often adopt their companion.
Animal and pet memorials show that even after they pass away, the likes of Hachiko, Simpson’s donkeys, and service dogs live on in hearts everywhere.